Skip to main content

Remembering Henry Christopher (1947-2024)

by Dr. Michael Mickler, Distinguished Professor of Historical Studies ——

It’s a joy to recall the remarkable contributions of Henry Christopher to Unification Theological Seminary, now HJ International Graduate School for Peace and Public Leadership, and to the wider community. 

Henry had a lengthy history with the Seminary. While a Belvedere workshop trainee in 1974, he was among the first assigned to rehab the Main Building of the newly purchased Barrytown property. I don’t know the full extent of his responsibilities, but he mentioned once that did electrical wiring.

Four years later, in 1978, Henry entered UTS as a member of the fourth class. While a student, he co-founded The Mid-Hudson Tide: A Community Service Newsletter which continued for a number of years after he graduated in 1980. Previously, Henry evidenced a talent for newsletter production when as a member of the New Hope Singers International he sold subscriptions in New York City for the newly founded News World. Whoever purchased a subscription from Henry also got his two-page newsletter titled Cosmos, the West Side Subscribers Club. It contained local information, events, and stories about the people in his subscriber’s area. 

Henry returned to UTS in 2005, twenty-five years after graduating, as Director of Recruitment and Admissions. Prior to that, he and his wife Katsuko served as dorm parents for the GOP program in Korea. And prior to that, he worked for two decades as a graphics designer at The Washington Times. While working at the Times, Henry and Katsuko resided and had responsibility to manage Jefferson House in McLean, VA where Rev. and Mrs. Moon stayed when in the Greater Washington, D.C. area.

Perhaps, due to his experience at GOP and Jefferson House, Henry excelled at creating a warm atmosphere for students before and after they arrived. New students had a friend in Henry. Within a couple of years, Henry expanded his UTS portfolio when he also became Director of Community Relations. UTS had come a long way from the 1970s when deprogrammers lurked beyond its gates, but Henry did more than anyone else before or after to cultivate cordial local relations. 

He took to heart the Founders’ vision of “living for the sake of others” and often quoted Rev. Moon’s comment that “At Barrytown … we welcome local villagers … Barrytown is for the benefit of all.” In his own words, Henry went “club crazy.” He started the Barrytown Nature Club and Community Garden. He invited the Mid-Hudson Valley Ice Boat Club to make use of the Seminary property in accessing Tivoli Bay. He organized a local Metal Detecting Club with neighbors and scoured the Seminary property, turning up Christian Brother medallions and arrowheads. He joined the Catskill Mountain Beekeepers club and set up hives on campus. There were Halloween pumpkin-carving contests, kite flying events on the Seminary’s back field, and community clean-ups of Barrytown roads and the Hudson riverfront every spring. 

In 2006, Henry began printing The Barrytown Gazette dedicated to community stories that other newspapers missed. Later, Henry discovered letters at the Harvard University Library that eight-year-old Theodore Roosevelt wrote in 1869 while spending summer weeks at Messina House on the property. Young “Teedie” (his nickname”) wrote of his adventures and budding interest in all types of small mammals, insects, snakes and birds, which he began to collect. The collection ended up in the Museum of Natural History in New York City. Roosevelt went on to establish 150 U.S. national forests, and Henry had a lead story for The Barrytown Gazette

The highlight of Henry’s community relations work was the lead role he played in designating Father’s Trail an official New York State Greenway Trial in 2006, a link in a trail system intended to run from Albany to New York City. Henry introduced key officials and leaders from local municipalities gathered at the trailhead for the dedication.

In addition to cultivating relationships, as anyone who worked at UTS/HJI knew, Henry excelled at technical, detail work. As Admissions Director, he was required to maintain meticulous records. His talents were later needed in distributing federal loan money to students. Henry established a reputation as one who could master the intricacies of financial aid and navigate the government bureaucracy.  During COVID, UTS relied on Henry to secure $700,000 in government funding. He also processed student visas as the Seminary’s SEVIS representative. He was the rare combination of a people-person who could buckle down to tasks at hand.

Henry was always on the lookout for treasures, buried or otherwise. That explained his fascination with metal detecting and why one year he researched and spent a year’s vacation time searching for a buried treasure out West. Anyone who has ever gone golfing with Henry knows that rather than walk down fairways, he traversed the roughs looking for lost balls. But his quest for treasures extended far beyond metal artifacts or golf balls. He discovered people and relationships. In his later years, Henry was deeply into cosmology, human origins, the earth’s evolution, even the origins of existence and God. He published some of his findings on the Seminary blog and presented on the Higher Purpose Forum.

A truly remarkable person. I can well imagine Henry as an admission director and visa-signer in the afterlife. If your files are not quite in order or you feel they haven’t been completely understood, Henry’s the man for you. Not only that, he’ll have a plethora of clubs for you to join. Meanwhile, he’ll be off, cultivating new territory and finding new adventures.